Balance: Tried-and-True Tips to Help Balance Life
You may be surprised to learn that discussing food and beverages is not the only part of my nutrition education and counseling talking points with clients. Often times I find myself reviewing, strategizing, and providing recommendations that help with whole body wellness. Let’s face it, if you are stressed, tired and/or overworked, it’s going to make it really hard to stick to a healthy eating plan.
Finding this balance in all areas of our lives is extremely challenging. We have so much on our to-do lists: work, kids and family time, homes to keep clean, dishes to do, laundry, dinners to prepare and on and on and on. If you’re trying to eat right and exercise, it can be hard to imagine when to fit this in. Balancing everything (to the best of our abilities) is really key to helping manage stress, achieve our goals, while completing all our necessary daily activities.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m a working mama of a two-year-old, with a picky not-so-nutritious husband, who is trying to practice what she preaches, exercise daily, keep my house clean, and I get overwhelmed and stressed too when trying to balance everything. While I have some tips to provide on what works for me, I wanted to share what has worked for other parents, health professionals and colleagues of mine as well, so you can find some suggestions that you can try to help you achieve balance while still working towards goals.
One of my favorite and most relaxing and productive ways to exercise is to go for a nice long brisk walk with my daughter after work. I’m able to work in my daily fitness, relieve stress, spend time with my child, teach her the importance of exercise and maybe even catch up with friends or family on the phone. It’s multitasking at its finest.
I also try to set time aside on a weekend morning to plan our meals for the week, while enjoying a cup of coffee. I can watch the little one play with her toys, slowly drink my coffee and work on our menu. It’s a relaxing time rather than a stressful chore.
In my meal planning, I really rely on 30 minute (or less) dinners, slow cooker meals and leftovers during the week. If I have a load of laundry to fold, it’s nice to save those little tasks on nights I don’t have much cooking to do. There’s enough to do in our evening routine as it is, keeping everything as easy and simple as possible is key.
I block out time for myself in my schedule If I didn't do that, I'd probably fill that "blank" time with other tasks or stress about feeling like there was something I should be doing instead. Seeing my own name in my calendar also serves as a good visual reminder that self-care is just as important as whatever else is going on in my life!
- Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, NYC-based dietitian and writer, owner of JessicaCordingNutrition.com
I wake up early to have a little time to myself first thing in the morning, whether it's to get some work done, do yoga, run or just sip some coffee. I think it's important to not be too hard on yourself to do it all. You have to pick and choose what is most important to you that day and sometimes something has to wait until later. It also helps having a supportive husband!
- Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD of LivelyTable.com
I get my kids involved in physical activity with me, like working out at the park while they play, or giving them their own mat so we can complete a workout at home together. I also try to remind myself that it's okay to ask for help. Asking a spouse to pitch in, so you can have a little time to yourself or taking a family member up on their offer to watch the kids, helps me maintain a sense of balance and not get overwhelmed.
- Brynn McDowell, RD of TheDomesticDietitian.com
Sunday mornings are definitely me-time! I go to my favorite dance class and then spend part of the day preparing for the week ahead. I love the me-time in the kitchen and I love knowing that I'm starting my week with healthy food prepared, which then allows me extra time during the week for my workouts!
- Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, Manhattan-based private practice dietitian and creator of CitNutritionally.com
I find pockets of time to exercise and have some quiet time, which can be difficult as a mom. I like to put it in my calendar with reminders so I don't forget to take a few minutes for myself. Now that my daughter is older, I try to go for a run at 6 AM a couple weekdays before it's time to get her ready and off to school. On weekends, I make a longer run or an hour or two of alone time a priority, to get some mental clarity and think about the previous week and the week ahead.
- Abbie Gellman, MS RD CDN, New York City-based Registered Dietitian, Chef, and owner of CulinaryNutritionCuisine.com
One thing that I found to work really well for me is to put my workout clothes on first thing after waking up. I was never one to exercise in the morning, but I found it getting harder and harder to fit it in later in the day/evening. I started this routine about a year ago. I get up, put my workout clothes on and grab some breakfast and workout for 30 minutes to one of Jillian Michael’ s DVDs before work. I find that I can commit to 30 minutes in the morning. Done!
- Judy Matusky, RDN, LDN owner of Athens Nutrition in Pennsylvania
I try to switch up my exercise routine dependent on my work/life schedule demands for that particular week or month. There are times when I am not training my hardest, but keeping a baseline of activity gives me a break and allows me to gear up for more challenging activities, when they arise.
- Diane Boyd, MBA, RD, LDN of Cape Fear Nutrition
A huge time-saver for me has been exercising at home. In college, I used to go to the gym almost every day and that took at least an hour and a half round trip. I don't have that sort of time anymore! I'm lucky if I can squeeze in 20 minutes. For those of you in the same boat, but want to stay committed to your fitness goals and life balance, I recommend using Youtube as your source of workout inspiration! No need for changing into an acceptable public gym outfit, packing or getting to and from. There are so many different FREE videos for all levels. Even better, you can switch up your workout depending on what you are in the mood for! Yoga? Kickboxing? Zumba? Weight lifting? You name it and you can find it online. It's also a great way to keep mixing things up and staying entertained.
- Audra Zimmer, MD | AndADashOfCinnamon.com
I usually get up before everyone else to get a workout in, and my kids know that time is "my time", and they don't interrupt it. I try to change it up so that I don't get bored-- some yoga, elliptical, tabata. In terms of nutrition, I take some time every weekend to plan dinners for the week and write up my shopping list. Also, on Saturday mornings, I always make some healthy baked good in bulk. We then enjoy it fresh on Saturday morning, as a family, and then the rest goes into the freezer for quick weekday breakfasts. Sunday evenings I usually try to have at least one component of dinner be something I make in bulk (grain, protein, roasted vegetables) that I can then use in other dinners or lunches throughout the week.
- Jessica Braider, MSW, Health & Cooking Coach | BalancedKitchen.com
I multi-task work + movement by incorporating walk-and-talk meetings and elliptical meetings. Instead of piling on even more desk-time, we take our own advice and get moving – plus, the exercise while we’re meeting helps to energize and boost creativity!
- Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD | Ochsner Fitness Center | OchsnerEatFit.com
Schedule workouts, grocery shopping and meal planning into your day just like you would a work appointment. You're less likely to skip or let other things get in the way. Also, try to leave your phone/laptops/iPads in another room during "family time" - even if it's just 30 minutes. A great way to stay present during the few hours you have to decompress and enjoy each other's company!
- Ashley Ellis | Social Media Management & Media Relations | 18th Street Social
Stay hydrated. It seems basic, but I often overlook drinking enough water throughout the day. If you find yourself dragging midday, becoming uneasy or having a mild headache - try reaching for a large glass of water instead of another coffee. Keeping some portable proteins with you for snacks instead of potato chips, candy or soda is also helpful. Some of my favorites include bean chips (Beanitos or Beanfields), edamame, roasted chickpeas and hummus with shelled hemp seeds.
- Andrew Adorno, DTR | Ambassador for OchsnerEatFit.com
To prevent eating out all the time, I can set the crockpot from work with a small device from Amazon called WeMo Switch Smart Plug. It works with Alexa, and since we are gone too long during the day, this helps with homemade dinners.
- Mom of 4
I also can’t say enough about meal planning! It makes it easier to stick to a nutritious meal (I avoid the words diet and healthy), life is easier because everything is already set so no arguments and Sunday's are usually the day I set aside to get the ingredients and prep so the week is a breeze.
- Mom of twins and newborn baby, works out of the office two days, works from home 3 days
DO THE PREP! I hate it, but it saved my sanity, money and health by Wednesday.
- Working Mom of 3
We're enjoying our new spiralizer- my little girl turns the crank and we make zoodles and air fried curly fries. We also meal prep on weekends. I have a wipe off board with our nightly menu. To encourage water, I give her a special water bottle that matches mine and we try to have a contest.
- Stay at home mom of two kids
The recommendations here have a common theme - meal planning and prepping, finding what works for you, trying new things and at the end of the day trying to go easy on yourself knowing that you’re not super human! It’s important to remember to take one step at a time and keep working at it; you’re more likely to have better success with long term behavior change. You may not know it, but that’s the part you’re really working for, and it’s the hardest!
Rebecca Miller, MPH, RDN, LDN of Ochsner Fitness Center and the Med Fit program | creator and author of Twisted Nutrition | TwistedNutritionBlog.com